Solicitor reprimanded for letting conveyancer steal monies from his office account

Legal Services Commissioner v WP [2008] VCAT 983 was a guilty plea. A sole practitioner and ex-cop shared offices with a Turkish conveyancer named Dervish. The solicitor practised as a sole practitioner under the name “Thomasz and Dervish”, even though Mr Dervish’s only connection with the legal practice was that he shared premises with it. The solicitor allowed the conveyancer to become a signatory to his office account (i.e. not his trust account), he said, because utilities bills were made out to both of them. Over a period of one and a half years, Dervish put more than $750,000 of the conveyancing business’s clients’ funds through the solicitor’s office account. Dervish misappropriated about $180,000. The solicitor said though he was aware that the solicitor from whom he had bought the practice, who had also shared premises with Dervish, had had an issue with Dervish in which a substantial sum of money went missing, he never noticed these transactions. He pleaded guilty to misconduct under the Legal Practice Act, 1996 constituted by a reckless failure to comply with this practice rule:

“A practitioner must ensure that each part of the practitioner’s legal practice is, at all times, carried on or effectively supervised by a legal practitioner.”

Vice-President Ross adopted the solicitor’s suggestion as to an appropriate disposition, making the following orders:

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The American version of the Briginshaw standard of proof

In a stinging dissent against the conclusion of a majority of the Supreme Court of Washington that a lawyer had breached a conflict of duties rule in representing multiple parties, one judge set out what sounds a lot like the US version of the Briginshaw standard of proof which prevails in Australian and English disciplinary hearings, at least in relation to serious allegations of wrongdoing. The case is In re Discipline of Marshall. Hat tip to Legal Profession Blog for bringing the case to my attention. The majority judgment is here. The dissenting opinion is here. It said: Continue reading “The American version of the Briginshaw standard of proof”

Solicitor gets 4 months’ holiday for sharing receipts with unqualified conveyancer

In Legal Services Commissioner v DLM [2006] LPT 13, the solicitor was ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution, publicly reprimanded, and had his practising certificate suspended for 4 months. He was guilty of sharing receipts from his law practice with an unqualified conveyancer. He agreed with a former colleague, not legally qualified, that she would find clients, arrange finance for their purchase of homes, and that he would then complete the conveyancing work she had already commenced. She got $1,000, and he got $1,500 though separate bills were rendered. The Tribunal looked at the substance of the whole thing and found that in truth, there was a sharing of receipts contrary to the prohibition on lawyers sharing receipts from legal practice with non-lawyers, which is found in Queensland in the rules of professional conduct. The Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, characterised the arrangement, which, it must be said is somewhat difficult to follow from the reasons like this: Continue reading “Solicitor gets 4 months’ holiday for sharing receipts with unqualified conveyancer”